Kellyanne Conway has been one of President Trump’s most loyal lieutenants, a person who doggedly defended him on television and took plenty of slin
Kellyanne Conway has been one of President Trump’s most loyal lieutenants, a person who doggedly defended him on television and took plenty of slings and arrows in the process.
Here’s what Conway, who resigned as White House counselor months ago because of family problems, says now:
“Instead of celebrating the accomplishments of the first term, we all watched in horror while the Capitol was run over.”
That single, restrained sentence, to the Washington Post, made me think how different the last chapter of the Trump presidency would have been if he had just accepted defeat–either at the outset or when the Electoral College certified Joe Biden’s win in mid-December.
There would have been no battle royale over charges of a stolen election that could not be proven.
There would have been no Capitol insurrection.
There would have been no spate of sudden resignations.
There would have been no second impeachment.
So this was a massive self-inflicted wound that leaves Trump facing a Senate trial, again, even after he leaves office.
The president’s detractors say his conduct is very much in character, that he’s always shattered the rules, tried to pressure law enforcement and put his self-interest above the country’s, as was evidenced by the first impeachment over Ukraine.
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The president’s defenders say he never intended to instigate violence, that the attack on Congress was the work of some crazed criminals and the impeachment just pure Democratic partisanship aimed at heading off a run in 2024.
But the circle of defenders is shrinking. In the House debate, even Kevin McCarthy, in arguing for censure, acknowledged that Trump bears responsibility for the Jan. 6 violence that left five people dead.
Chad Wolf, who quit as acting Homeland Security secretary, told also CNN that Trump bears some responsibility: “I was disappointed that the president didn’t speak out sooner on that. I think he had a role to do that. I think, unfortunately, the administration lost a little bit of the moral high ground on this issue by not coming out sooner on it.”
And it’s hard to make this solely a Democratic issue when 10 Republicans, led by Liz Cheney, voted to impeach.
The Post piece depicts Trump as “increasingly isolated, sullen and vengeful,” and upset “that virtually nobody is defending him — including press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, economic adviser Larry Kudlow, national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien, and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to a senior administration official.”
That is quite a list.
Trump’s relationship with Rudy Giuliani is also described as fractured, despite the ex-mayor’s frenetic legal defense and waves of allegations about election fraud. The Post says the president has told aides not to pay Giuliani’s legal bills and was offended by an effort to charge $20,000 a day.
And we already know that Trump is furious with Mike Pence for not challenging the election results–power he does not have–and did not call him even after his life was in danger while he hid during the Capitol siege.
This has been a pattern throughout his presidency, as Trump has turned on the likes of Rex Tillerson, Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, John Bolton, and even Bill Barr, often after they clashed on policy or would not do his bidding.
Then there are the other resignations: Betsy DeVos, Elaine Chao, and Stephanie Grisham among them.
Another feature of his presidency is aides who are regularly urging him to take steps he finds distasteful–such as making a video the other day condemning violence by his supporters–or not to take such steps.
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As the New York Times just reported about the impeachment debate, “advisers said that Mr. Trump had to be dissuaded from going to the House floor to try to defend himself during Wednesday’s impeachment proceedings, something he wanted to do during his first impeachment in December 2019, advisers said.”
But for those who believed in Trump and his achievements–from lower taxes to judicial appointments, from easing regulation to withdrawing from foreign wars–there can only be a great sense of regret.
There is no shame in being a one-term president. History remembers George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter more favorably than they were viewed at the time.
That’s why even Kellyanne wishes her former boss had left the stage in a different way.